How do I compare Mastery, who won last Saturday’s San Felipe Stakes with such ease it made me dizzy, and my colt Gerard’s Warrior, who I had entered in a $5,000 maiden claiming race at Penn National several weeks ago? I’m sure most of you think I’ve lost my mind or you can chalk it up to the fact that I’m just not good at titling articles. Either way, you would be correct. But trust me, by the end of this you’ll see what I mean.
I’ll start with Mastery, who clearly ran to his name in the San Felipe and, with the three year old picture very blurry at the moment, as he crossed the finish line I mumbled out loud “there’s my Kentucky Derby horse….finally.”
Undefeated in three starts, and drawing to the inside, the gorgeous Mastery broke running for jockey Mike Smith and outsprinted Gormley and Iliad for the early lead. With Smith having a good hold of his colt, Mastery carved out the opening quarter mile in :23.2 seconds. Gormley followed in close pursuit second, while a three wide Iliad was in third position.
After a half-mile in fleet :46.3, Mastery came under “attack” by both Gormley and Iliad, forming a three pronged battle for command at about the five-sixteenths pole.
As they turned for home Gormley was the first to throw in the towel and that didn’t surprise me all that much. (As I explained in the preview of this race, Gormley is a completely different animal when not on the early lead). Iliad valiantly picked up the chase, but was clearly second-best as Mastery easily put several lengths between himself and Iliad down the lane. With Smith basically pulling up Mastery in the final yards, he was in front by 6 ¾ lengths and seemed to cruise under the wire, stopping the clock in a very good 1:41.1 for the 8 ½ furlongs.
However, about “10 jumps” past the wire Smith said he “felt something.”
“He seemed to just go off in the left hind,” Smith said. “I don’t know why. Nothing happened that made me think, ‘Oh, something just happened.’ He just all of the sudden went off and wouldn’t put weight on it”.
“I got off real quick and nothing seemed dislocated or anything. After he moved for a little bit he started walking fine on it so I’m hoping that maybe he just tweaked it or rolled it. I’m hoping it’s not that serious because he’s an incredible horse.”
Mastery was vanned off the track and back to trainer Bob Baffert’s barn after being evaluated by track vet Dr. Dana Stead.
“When he got back to the barn, he seemed okay, but when he got off the wash rack, he showed some filling in his left front ankle,” Baffert said. “It’s a condylar fracture. He’ll be operated on this Monday and they’ll insert two screws. We won’t know until after the surgery whether or not this is career-ending.”
As a quick update Mastery seems to be doing well after the surgery:
“The surgery went very well,” Baffert said of the operation performed by Dr. Vince Baker. “He’s back at the barn, got there last night. He’s looking good.”
Mastery will remain with the Baffert to recover.
“He’ll stay there for at least a month,” Baffert said. “We’ll just wait. It takes like 90 days for that to heal up, and then we’ll decide (if he’ll race again). Right now our main concern is to make sure he’s comfortable and happy.”
“We’ve been so high on this horse, and you see what he did today (Saturday) was just incredible and puts him as the best 3-year-old in the nation,” Baffert said Saturday evening. “and now this happens”.
“This is a really talented horse,” Smith said after the race. “The power…it’s endless with this guy. He’s some kind of strong. He was hitting gears every time I asked him to. Gear down one, gear up two, gear down one…Everything seemed to come easy for him. That was a pretty impressive race.”
In the comparison of the two, Mastery and Gerard’s Warrior, Mastery obviously has more talent in his forelock than “GW” has in his entire body.
I mean “GW,” in one of his last published works, went five furlongs in a molasses like 1:06.
Mastery is a big (my guess is 16.2 hands and about 1050 to 1100 lbs), handsome, bay colt while “GW” is 15.1 hand pipsqueak, chestnut ridgling who weights around 950-1000 lbs. …..so as you can see, there is clearly no comparison in size, weight, looks or talent.
However, there is one comparison I can make.
For those of you who follow me, you know I entered “GW” in a race two weeks ago but was forced to scratch due to a “minor issue” he developed about 24 hours before making his racing debut.
Whatever the minor issue was, over the past two weeks, it was not getting much better.
So, after speaking to my trainer on Friday night, we agreed to do an x-ray of his right front shin on Saturday to see what, if anything, was going on.
I received a call from my trainer shortly before post time of the San Felipe with the first words coming out of his mouth being “Gerard, we got a problem”
The minor issue wasn’t minor at all as the x-rays showed Gerard’s Warrior had a cracked his right front cannon bone (similar to Mastery’s). The xray looked as though someone took a long strand of hair and draped it over his cannon bone (shin).
Needless to say, I was devastated but at the same time, it came as no real surprise to me (I’ve been around horses a long time and the “clues” my trainer was giving me in the days leading up to Saturday were pretty clear to me).
As my trainer and I weighted our options (retirement or rehab) on Saturday night, the conversation end with him saying “it’s up to you”
I said “I know, give me a day or two to wrap my head around this”.
After two sleepless nights, I woke Monday morning I realized a few things. I started comparing the two horses even though they are opposite ends of the (talent) spectrum.
I realized Gerard’s Warrior is obviously not the quality of animal that Mastery is. When Smith said Mastery was “powerful” and “talented” those are clearly not word I would use to describe my little chestnut.
That led me into thinking that Mastery would have a much better chance of returning to the races than my horse would. That thought in turn led me to “GW’s” future, well-being and quality of life.
After all he’s been through in the past year or two, do I really want to ask him to come back from this as well? Would he even comeback the same? (Probably not)….would there be risks that something more catastrophic can happen down the road? (Maybe)….and yes, to be honest, I also thought “did I want to spend upwards of 5 figures to get him back?”
I love that little horse but, in the end, I made the heartbreaking phone to my trainer on Monday morning and said “Let’s shut him down permanently.”
At this writing I have been in touch with New Vocations, who have several retirement homes in the eastern portion of the country as well as independent farms in Pennsylvania, Michigan and South Carolina and I will make a decision on where to send him at some point this week. My decision will be made on who could provide GW with the best home and will not be driven by anything else (money, distance etc.).
So, as Mastery will be sent to the sidelines and rehabbed with hopes of being brought back to the races…..GW will not…. I will follow Mastery a lot closer/differently now and, in some strange way, I will always tie Mastery in with GW.
“It will require a few screws to be inserted and he’s going to have to take some significant time off—several months off,” Mastery owner Everett Dobson said (before Monday’s procedure). “Obviously it’s incredibly disappointing.”
Yes, Mr. Dobson, “incredibly disappointing” ….I know EXACTLY how you feel…..just to a lesser extent.
Thanks for Reading